Once upon a time, three Inside Stitch bloggers decided to pack their travel bags, load up the car and drive east, to the great Buckeye State. Their hope was to taste great food, see great sights and attend a birthday party packed with great people. Here are their adventures …
After fueling up on a light lunch, we crossed the state line and enjoyed a short jaunt to the gorgeous Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Poet Robert Frost called these grounds, “the most beautiful campus that ever there was.” The Apple Tree, a gift shop nestled just outside the picturesque Miami campus, was our first stop. Though the students weren’t expected to return for about a week, the store was set, complete with beautiful Va Va Bloom-inspired petals hand-painted in the window. Owner Cheri Corcoran took the store over after her Mother, who opened and ran the location for more than 30 years, injured her back. “It’s so fun,” Cheri said. “I just go to the shows with a friend of mine, and we go off what we like.”
After a pleasant visit with Cheri, it was back on the road, toward Fairfield. But it was hot, which with this crew could only mean one thing: A quick stop at Flub’s Dari-ette in Hamilton for a sprinkle cone and “cyclones” (a heavenly mix of soft serve and fixin’s).
The cool sugar rush carried us on to our next excursion, though nothing could have fully prepared us for what we were about to see. Set off the Dixie Highway, there resides the most mind-blowing grocery store a foodie has ever seen. Not just a “grocery store,” that doesn’t really do it justice. Jungle Jims is an international food paradise; 1.5 acres of produce, spirits, from-scratch baked goods, artisanal cheeses as far as the eye can see, and delicacies from every region of the world. Perhaps most impressive – though we are biased – is the Vera Bradley offerings in the Jasmin Gift Shoppe. Throw in a herd of life-sized jungle beasts around the exterior of the building, and this stop quickly climbed to the top of our list of Midwest travel destinations.
Back on the road, we tried to snap photos of the scenic landscape along the north banks of the Ohio River near the Ohio-Kentucky border as we drove into downtown Cincinnati. We checked into The Cincinnatian Hotel and, of course, turned our minds to food. Taking a local’s recommendation, we chose Nada for dinner. One look at the colorful sign, and we knew it was the right choice. Carnitas, shrimp and pork belly tacos were a delicious way to end our first day in Ohio.
The next morning, coffee in hand, we strolled down a few blocks from our hotel to a downtown gem, It’s Just Crepes. Turns out, a great crepe is really all you need in the morning. We sliced and shared a sweet and savory combination of egg-filled menu items and chocolate crepes. The friendly staff, clearly impressed by our ambitious order (and appetites) so early in the day, was as wonderful as the French pancakes.
We would have stayed to chat, but we had a very special birthday party on the itinerary. Every summer, Vera Bradley makes a point to celebrate our namesake. This year is even more special, as it coincides with the 30th anniversary of Vera Bradley, the company.
We drove to Kenwood Towne Center and were so pleased to walk into a sea of partygoers. Everyone seemed thrilled at the special in-store offers, Enter to Win and cupcakes from Crumbs that looked almost too beautiful to eat. The managers mingled and assisted, while patrons picked up Reversible Comforter Sets, Backpacks and, of course, Veras, all in their favorite colors. It was such a thrill to think about the people celebrating along with us at that very moment at their local store!
Before we could leave the area, there was a vital piece of business on the agenda: Graeter’s. Yes, more ice cream. But, as it turns out, this wasn’t just any ice cream. This was a French Pot-confected scoop of pure joy. Making the impossible decision, we opted for Coconut Chip, Buckeye Blitz and Chocolate Chip, respectfully.
Last but not least, we ventured to Occasionally Yours at The Greene in Dayton. We made it to the outdoor mall just in time, as thunderstorms were rolling in. An adorable Paisley Meets Plaid display, complete with a complementary pink sofa was a highlight for us, though the entire store was beautiful and the staff was incredibly accommodating.